A research team including Dr Jane Williams from Hartpury University has put forward a number of recommendations to the equine industry to support horse owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
It follows a study carried out by Dr Williams, Associate Professor and Head of Research at Hartpury, equine scientist Dr David Marlin and Dr Hayley Randle (Charles Sturt University, Australia) that highlighted fears over the emotional, physical, social and economic impact of Covid-19.
The survey of more than 1,500 horse owners identified a number of concerns including the impact of potential loss of income, becoming ill or having to self-isolate, the fear of increased livery costs as a result of future lockdowns and the possible restricted access to feed, drugs, farriers and physios, which could seriously impede their horses’ welfare.
More than half of the horse owners who took part (51%) reported that the pandemic had had a negative effect on their physical health, while 73% said it had had a negative impact on their mental health.
Illness, bereavement, financial worries, reduced social contact and increased anxiety and stress relating to who would be able to care for their horse in the event of an owners’ ill health or need to self-isolate, all featured highly on the list of anxieties.
The survey, which was carried out in October, also suggested that while livery yards appear to have been strong on providing hand-washing or hand-sanitising facilities, the majority – especially DIY yards – had yet to put in place Covid-19 plans and many were failing to observe the standard measures prescribed by Government, designed to minimise the spread of infection.
Commenting on the survey findings, Dr Williams said: “This is no time for complacency, or for ‘Covid-fatigue’ to set in.
“It is vital that the equestrian industry steps up to the plate and accepts its role in trying to fight the pandemic.
“Hopefully, this survey will also serve to back up the argument that horse welfare related activities – such as continued access to feed, veterinary services, farriers and physios – must remain exempt from any future quarantine restrictions.”
Dr Marlin added: “Given the current surge in coronavirus cases and the emergence of the highly contagious new variant of Covid-19, it is imperative that private livery yards take immediate action and put in place the appropriate plans to ensure the facilities they offer are commensurate with the precautions currently being advised to all businesses.
“Owners need to be updated on the measures that are being put in place and given clear guidance on the revised protocols to be rolled out and the importance of adhering to the new regime.
“This survey also demonstrates the need for owners to put in place their own Covid survival plan to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of their horse in the event of the need for physical or financial support should they become ill or if they are forced to self-isolate.”
Picture: Equine students at Hartpury